Being gay at a Catholic University

In a blog post for Religion and Politics, Michael O'Laughlin explores the Catholic Church's views on what they consider "traditional marriage," statistics that show a split in the Church on the issue, and what it means to be LGBT at Catholic University in 2013.

When O'Laughlin was a student at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire in 2005, the Benedictine monks that ran the school were determined that there was no need for an LGBT or ally group on their campus. Despite hushed attempts by students to vie for the right to organize on campus, school officials ruled that any LGBT concerns would be dealt with through campus ministries.

Michael's journey took him to four American Catholic schools, all of which ranged on a very wide spectrum of social issues.

From DePaul University's extremely inclusive environment – the first Catholic School to have an LGBTQ studies minor - to his alma mater's slowly-but-surely transforming conservative environment, it's obvious that while some are ahead of times, others are still trying to catch up from behind.

When attending Saint Anselm College in the early 2000's, O'Laughlin experienced mixed-messages from the staff firsthand. Upon visiting the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC he learned that Saint Anselm isn't the only school that has expressed mixed emotion. With a spotty history of LGBT resources dating all the way back to 1980, LGBT and allied students at CUA still strive to be heard by joining CUAllies, an organization not officially recognized by the school.

LGBT student leaders at a Jesuit school in California explained, “It really does come down to the school’s Jesuit philosophy and its Jesuit ideals. It focuses on Catholic social teaching, especially the social justice aspect, instead of focusing on the sexual ethics and homosexuality aspect.” They said they felt as though the Jesuit environment actually served as an accepting safe zone for them in their identities.

Upon visiting his alma mater, O'Loughlin encountered a slightly more inclusive environment than when he attended. While the school hosted talks about the LGBT environment, and added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy, school officials seemed to think that students had given up on pushing anymore change.

O'Laughlin points out that in the eight years since he attended his conservative Catholic school, the gay rights movement has gained tremendous momentum. "In 1996, 70 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage," O'Laughlin explains, "today, a majority support it."

"Even Catholics are on board, much to the chagrin of some of their bishops." This disconnect is indicative of a large problem within the Catholic Church.

A survey released recently has shown proof that the everyday Catholics in America actually accept marriage equality and equal rights for LGBT people more than any other branch of Christianity in the US, while the Roman Catholic hierarchy continues to be rabidly against marriage equality.